In Hong Kong, religious freedom is a fundamental right.
19 March 2014| Last updated on 28 June 2017
Hong Kong is a city that has undergone different rule in the last century; the British missionaries had a lot of influence on the religion of the city at one point in Hong Kong’s history, however due to the fact that 97% of the population is predominantly Chinese, the religion is also predominantly from that region.
Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights afforded to the residents of Hong Kong. It is protected by the Basic Law and other relevant legislation. There is a large variety of religious groups in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. All of these groups have a considerable number of adherents. Apart from offering religious instructions, many major religious bodies have established schools and provided health and welfare facilities.
Traditional and Religious Festivals
There are five major festivals in the Chinese calendar, with the Lunar New Year being the most important. Gifts and visits are exchanged among friends and relatives and children receive lai see, or ‘lucky money’. During the Ching Ming Festival in spring, ancestral graves are visited. In early summer (fifth day of the fifth lunar month), the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated with dragon boat races and by eating cooked glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Gifts of mooncakes, wine and fruit are exchanged and adults and children gather under the full moon with colourful lanterns. Chung Yeung is on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, when many visit their ancestors’ graves or hike up mountains in remembrance of an ancient Chinese family’s escape from plague and death by fleeing to a mountain-top. Apart from the above traditional festivals, quite a number of important religious festivals, including Good Friday, Easter, Buddha’s Birthday and Christmas, have been listed as public holidays. Adherents hold special celebration or memorial ceremonies on these occasions.
Buddhism and Taoism
Buddhism and Taoism have a considerable number of adherents in Hong Kong (more than 1 million Buddhists and about 1 million Taoists). There are more than 600 temples in the HKSAR. The history of some of these temples can be traced back to more than 700 years ago, while some others have been built in recent years. Notable temples include the Wong Tai Sin Temple located in the Wong Tai Sin District in Kowloon. This popular temple is dedicated to the Taoist deity, Wong Tai Sin. Besides that, the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill is a group of temple structures in the Tang Dynasty's architectural style. It is now open to the public following the completion of its redevelopment in 2000.
Strictly speaking a philosophy rather than a religion, Confucianism is a belief in the teachings of Confucius who lived in ancient China from 551 to 479 B.C. His teachings were based on moral code for human relations with emphasis on the importance of tradition and rites. Confucians in Hong Kong have been deeply involved in education. They run a number of local schools with an objective of promoting the teachings of Confucius. Confucian organisations in Hong Kong include the Confucian Academy, the Confucius Hall and the Confucian Association. Confucians in Hong Kong have been deeply involved in education. They run local schools with an objective of promoting the teachings of Confucius.
There are many communities of Christians in Hong Kong, the main ones are the Roman Catholic Community and the Protestant community, however there are places of religion for Orthodox Christians and Others. The Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong became a diocese in 1946. About 363 000 people are Catholics. They are served by 305 priests, 65 brothers and 491 sisters. There are 51 parishes, comprising 40 churches, 31 chapels and 26 halls for religious service. The majority of Services are conducted in Cantonese, with three-fifths of the parishes providing services in English and in Tagalog in some cases. The presence of the Protestant community dates back to 1841. About 480 000 Protestant Christians live in Hong Kong. The Protestant community is made up of more than 70 denominations with at least 1 450 congregations. Apart from many indigenous denominations, most of the major international denominations and former mission agencies have ecclesial branches in Hong Kong, such as the Adventist, Anglican, Baptist, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal and Salvation Army.
To date, there are over 220.000 Muslims in Hong Kong and the existence of four mosques and an Islamic centre is an acknowledgement of the fast-growing community. Five principal masjids are used daily for prayers, and they are located at Shelley Street in Hong Kong Island, Oi Kwan Road in Wan Chai, Nathan Road in Kowloon and Cape Collinson in Chai Wan; there is also a masjid inside Stanley Prison. The oldest is the Jamia Masjid in Shelley Street, which was built in 1849 and rebuilt in 1915 to make room for 400 worshippers. The Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre in Nathan Road can accommodate 3 500 worshippers and the Masjid and Islamic Centre in Oi Kwan Road can accommodate 700 to 1 500 people.
An estimated 40.000 Hindus call Hong Kong home and are an integral part of the city's vibrant culture. The Hindu temple in Happy Valley is an important community centre for meditation and worship - pujas. Other temples are run by the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON-International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Sai Baba and Chinmaya Mission orders.
Like all Gurdwaras, the temple in Wan Chai provides free meals and short-term accommodation to overseas visitors of any faith. The main holy days and festivals observed are the birthdays of Guru Nanak (founder of the faith), Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Guru) and Baisakhi (birthday of all Sikhs). The Sikhs originally came to Hong Kong from Punjab, in Northern India, as part of the British Armed Forces in the 19th century. There are 10.000 Sikhs in Hong Kong.
With a history dating back to the 1840’s, Hong Kong’s Jewish community, comprising families from various parts of the world, worships at three main synagogues. Ohel Leah Synagogue (Orthodox) provides daily, Sabbath and festival services and the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (Reform) provides Sabbath and festival services. Both synagogues share the same premises in Robinson Road, Hong Kong Island. The Chabad Lubavitch in MacDonnell Road also holds daily services.
The majority of residents of Hong Kong are either agnostic, atheist, believe in folk religions, or indifferent towards religion. According to the U.S. Department of State, only 43 percent of the population practices some form of religion.
For more detailed information about the religions of Honk Kong please visit: www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/religion.pdf